Thursday, January 21, 2010

IPCC busted for using junk science – again

Cooking in Kohlua, India. Soot from tens of thousands of villages in developing countries is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming, studies say. Photo New York Times.

For the second time in as many months, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been slammed for using junk science to hype the doom-and-gloom message of its climate change predictions.

In late November 2009, emails were leaked which showed top IPCC scientists openly discussing how to fudge their climate findings to make the outlook seem worse than it really was. If you need a refresher on that scandal, read British environmental reporter George Monbiot’s excellent commentary, which starts with the words “I have seldom felt so alone.” It was quite a slap in our righteous environmentalists faces, this realization that, you know, the good guys were using the same manipulative techniques as Exxon Mobil.

And now this.

In its latest 2007 report, the IPCC had predicted “with 90% confidence” that Himalayan glaciers could vanish completely by 2035. But today it turns out that this “prediction” was a junk statement based on a non-peer reviewed claim, a mere speculation which an obscure scientist made back in… 1999. That unfounded statement was recklessly bumped up by IPCC bureaucrats to the level of consensus science, because it would look good in their report and would send out a message which they felt the public and decision makers needed to hear.

When I read this, I cannot help but think of how the Bush administration routinely manipulated the terrorist threat codes, moving levels up to orange or red whenever they needed a popularity boost.

I cannot help but remember that, to justify their ongoing grab of our commons, BC’s private power producers use, with the vocal support of environmentalists such as Tzeporah Berman, the narrative of the urgent and overriding “fight against climate change”.

Nor can I help but go back to this remarkable PBS documentary called "The Money Tree" showing how large transnational corporations such as GM and Chevron are using climate change as an excuse to privatize large swaths of the Amazon rainforest, using complex carbon trading financial montages with the active complicity of large NGOs. In order to ensure that local villagers don’t enter the newly privatized lands, those corporations have demanded that the Brazilian government provide a Green Police whose primary mission is to harass and brutalize the locals out of their traditional territories. This documentary is a must-see.

I cannot help but wonder whether I am being played in spite of myself into supporting the neoliberal agenda of privatizing the commons, all in the name of climate change. And why should I be surprised by my own naïveté? After all, for the elite class green has become the new black.

I have been warned on many occasions by friends smarter and more awake than me that there is something really smelly about the way climate change is being used to serve higher ends. But so far I have sheepishly chosen to ignore those signals. Well, not anymore. For example I am now paying attention, as those friends have repeatedly told me to, to NASA studies which have underscored the critical importance of soot in the melting of the world’s glaciers (here, here, here, and here). Soot which is mostly generated by the poorest people on earth to cook and keep themselves warm, using the most backwards and polluting energy systems, and which could be very easily remediated, not in a distant future or even tomorrow but right now, through a rapid and massive transfer of simple, proven, portable, cheap technologies such as solar power.

Does this make me a climate change denier? According to my adversaries from the BC private power industry, it does. But I beg to differ. I think, instead, that it makes me climate aware. I don’t allow myself to either downplay or be overwhelmed by the threat of climate change. I try to see it for what it is, one of several imminent dangers to the planet’s commonwealth, along with (in no particular order) deforestation, ocean depletion, species extinction, destruction of natural habitat, loss of fresh water and arable soil to absurd agricultural practices, durable poisoning of ecosystems with toxic plastics and chemicals, etc. All pointing to a single underlying cause: the hyper-exploitation of people and ecosystems by the capitalist mode of production. A mode of production which we, the people of the world, must do away with at our earliest possible convenience.

Climate change is real. But the debate has taken a turn for the irrational. How else explain that some people seriously consider sacrificing Bute Inlet in order to “save the planet”? How else explain that Tzeporah Berman is still in business, broadcasting her pro-corporate message in the name of global warming? The problem of climate change is serious enough that we don’t need to fraudulently exaggerate it, as the IPCC and others have gotten in the habit of doing. If we could only stop hyperventilating for a moment, we would see that the ruling class is using our primal fear of Armageddon to obtain concessions which we would normally tell them to stick up their asses. 

Once we've reached that stage of awareness and called the corporate bluff, we can finally get to work on actually fighting climate change. Remember how activists in Copenhagen were holding banners that read “System Change Not Climate Change”? They were showing us the way.



  1. This is very disappointing, given the increasingly limiting access to information. Citizens will find themselves in the dark with little capacity to change the systems required to truly address the world challenges.

  2. "There are some people so addicted to exaggeration that they can't tell the truth without lying." - Josh Billings

    And telling the truth is just the start. We all know the climate is changing, and we know the severe impact this is already having on hundreds of millions of people. How much worse it will get, and exactly where and for whom is mostly speculation, but the trend is clear to all.

    Vision without action is blindness. To every complex problem, there are many simple solutions, but you have to do all of them.

    The Transition Town movement,, is just that, a set of practical and simple solutions--many of them--that provide not only for a descent from our carbon-based energy dependence, but also a reconnection with our public commons and the community that must be reinvigorated to manage it wisely and sustainably.

    Here in Vancouver, that vision is being promoted and acted upon by Village Vancouver,, a not-for-profit, open, transparent, accountable, and resilient grass-roots movement to reset the clock a few more minutes from midnight.